This fact-card has been developed as a result of the many enquirers who contact Age UK each year needing statistics on a wide range of topics of relevance to older people. It is updated annually. The fact-card gives information about older people throughout the United Kingdom but, because administrative structures are different, in some cases statistics are given for Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales only). These figures are marked with the symbol (GB).
Unless otherwise stated the figures are for 1996 (which is the most up-to-date year with comparable data) and refer to people of pensionable age (men aged 65 and over and women aged 60 and over).
Following each paragraph a number (given in brackets) denotes the source. A list of sources is given at the end of the document.
In the United Kingdom there are over 10.5 million older people:
- 8,922,000 in England
- 915,000 in Scotland
- 582,000 in Wales
- 249,000 in Northern Ireland(1)
In 1996, the population of the United Kingdom based on mid-year estimates was 58,801,000. Of this figure,
18.14% (10,668,000 people) were over pensionable age:
- 6,900,000 were women aged 60 and over (of whom 5,482,000 were aged 65 and over)
- 3,768,000 were men aged 65 and over
- 9,250,000 were people aged 65 and over
- 4,192,000were people aged 75 and over
- 1,067,000were people aged 85 and over
In 1996, almost two-thirds of people aged 75 and over were women: 2,734,000 women compared to 1,458,000 men. Almost three-quarters of those aged 85 and over were women: 794,000 were women compared to 273,000 men. (1)
In 1996 a man of 60 could expect to live for another 18.5 years and a woman of the same age for 22.4 years. (2)
In 1996, in the United Kingdom, 6,325 people (5,670 women and 655 men) were aged 100 and over. In 2021 it is estimated that 22,493 women and 4,386 men will be in this age group. (2)
In 1971, men aged 60-64 accounted for 8% of the workforce compared with 4% in 1997. In 1971, women aged 55-59 accounted for 9% of the workforce compared with 6% in 1997. (3)
(GB) In 1996/97 people from ethnic minority groups represented just under 6% of the population. Of these:
- 5% of the Indian population were aged 65 and over
- 2% of the Pakistani population were aged 65 and over
- 2% of the Black African population were aged 65 and over
- 3% of the Bangladeshi population were aged 65 and over
- 8% of the Black Caribbean population were 65 and over (4)
An ageing population in the future
The number of people over pensionable age is projected to increase from 10.7 million in 1996 to 11.8 million in 2010.
Allowing for the women`s retirement age change (to 65), the population of pensionable age will rise to 12.0 million by 2021, and will peak at nearly 15.5 million around 2038. (5)
The basic pension from April 1998 - April 1999 is: £64.70 for a single pensioner, and £103.40 for a couple (claiming on the husband`s contributions) per week.
From April 1998, the main rates are as follows:
- For people aged 60-74:
£70.45 for a single pensioner
and £109.35 for a couple
- For people aged 75-79:
£72.70 for a single pensioner
£112.55 for a couple
- And for those aged 80 and over, or who are ill or disabled and aged 60 and over:
£77.555 for a single person
and £117.90 for a couple, per week
(GB) Average adult weekly full-timeœ367.60 in 1997. (6)
In 1995/6 48% of pensioner households depended on state benefits for at least 75% of their income. 14% received all their income from state benefits. (7)
(GB) In 1995/6 1,764,000 people aged 60 or over (single people or couples) were receiving Income Support because of their low income. (8)
The Department of Social Security estimates that in1995/96 between 34% and 40% of pensioners who were entitled to Income Support, between 11% and 14% who were entitled to Housing Benefit, and between 26% and 34% entitled to Council Tax Benefit not claim. (9)
Where the head of a household is aged 65 and over, a higher proportion of money is spent each week on housing, fuel and food (41.4% of expenditure) than in other households (37.5%). (10)
The most severe deprivation is experienced by pensioners living alone who are mainly dependent on state pensions. 52.4% of their expenditure goes on housing, fuel and food. (11)
In 1996/97, one-adult retired households mainly dependent on benefits spent 10.8% of their average weekly household expenditure on fuel, light and power compared with 4.7% for single non-retired households. (12)
(GB) In 1996, in the 65-74 age group, 21% of men and 39% of women lived alone, and 31% of men and 58% of women aged 75 and over lived alone. (13)
(GB) In 1996, of people aged:
- 65 to 74 75 and over
- 74% 62% of men were married
- 53% 28% of women were married
- 13% 29% of men were widowed
- 35% 62% of women were widowed (14)
In 1996/97 of pensioners mainly dependent on state pensions and living alone:
- 82.9% had central heating, compared to 87.3% of all households
- 9.6% had a car, compared to 69.0% of all households
- 88.5% had a telephone, compared to 93.1% of all households
- 62.6% had a washing machine, compared to 91.0% of all households (15)
(GB) In 1995, as in 1990, the proportion of carers whose main dependant was aged 85 or over was 20%.
In 1995, 53% of carers had dependants over 75 compared with 57% in 1990.
In 1995, as in 1990, more than two-thirds were looking after female dependants.(16)
(GB) Amongst the carers in 1995 who devoted at least 20 hours a week to caring:
- 47%were aged 45-64
- 27%were aged over 65 (17)
The health of older people
(GB) In 1996, 59% of people aged 65-74 and 66% of people aged 75 and over in the GHS sample had a long-standing illness, compared with 35% of people of all ages. 41% (65-74) and 52% (aged 75 a nd over) said that they had a long-standing illness which limited their life style. (18)
It is estimated that some 5% of the population aged 65 and over and 20% of the population aged 80 and over suffer from dementia. In 1996, in England and Wales, about 665,000 of people aged 65 and over were suffering from significant dementia. (19)
In 1996, in England and Wales, the deaths of 356 people aged 65 and over involved hypothermia as the underlying cause according to their death certificates. (20)
A 1991 survey for a sample of 10 European showed that in England and Wales excess winter were 19% above average. The rates Germany were 4% and Sweden and Norway above average. (21)
In 1996, 15.4% of all accidents within the home involved people of 65 and over.(22)
(GB) In 1997, of 973 pedestrian fatalities in crashes 437 (45%) were over the age of 60. (23)
Health and community care services
(GB) In 1996 in a three-month period: 15% of all persons and 24% of those aged 75 and over had attended the casualty or out-patients department of a hospital. (24)
(GB) In 1996 of those admitted to hospital in the last year the average stay was 7 nights. However thosem aged over 75 spent on average 12 nights (men) and 13 nights (women). (24)
(GB) In 1996, 84% of NHS GP consultations took place in the surgery. Consultations at home were most likely on behalf of the under five`s and among older people. 27% of consultations by those aged 75 and over took place at home. (25)
During one week, in England, in 1997, 470,000 households received home help or home care services. Of these:
- 79,900 were aged 65-74
- 178,600 were aged 75-84 and
- 155,100 were aged 85 and over (26)
(GB) In 1996, of households where the head of household was aged 65 or over:
- 56% were owner occupiers without a mortgage
- 6% were owner occupiers with a mortgage
- 26% rented from local authority
- 6% rented from housing associations
- 6% rented privately (27)
In 1996, in England, 18.7% of single older people lived in poor housing. Of people aged 75 and over, 1 in 5 households in poor housing, this increases for people of 75 and over who live alone to almost 1 in 4.(23%)
83,000 owner occupiers aged 85 and over live in housing. Most of these require essential modernisation. (28)
In 1997, in England, the number of sheltered housing units for older people was estimated as: Rented from local authorities 281,528 Rented from housing associations 169,586 (29)
In 1998 the following estimate was made (for the United Kingdom):
Private retirement housing units 92,500* (30) *This includes all private retirement housing; 87% of which has a resident warden (or manager); 94% has a resident or non-resident warden. Additionally, there are 899 Abbeyfield houses 8,555 resident places. (31)
In England, in 1997, the number of permanent residents over 65 in registered residential homes was 209,000 of which approximately:
- 46,000 were in local authority homes
- 37,000 were in voluntary homes
- 127,000 were in private homes(32)
(Because of rounding these figures do not match the given above).
In England, in 1997, the number of beds in nursing homes occupied by older people was 133,733. (33)
In 1996, in England, the chance of living in a long stay hospital or care home by age was:
- 0.05% (under65)
- 1.0% (65-74)
- 5.4% (75-84)
- 24.7% (85 plus) (34)
Source of data used
(1) Population Trends (PT), Summer 1998, table 6.
(2) Govt. Actuary`s Dept. from the 1996-based National Population Projections.
(3) Social Trends (ST), 1998, chart no 4.1.
(4) ST, 1998, table no 1.10.
(5) First release of the 1996-based National Projections.
(6) Labour Market Trends, May 1998, table no B. 14.
(7) House of Commons Hansard, 18/2/98, col 636 Pensioners` Income Series 1995/96.
(8) Social Security Statistics 1997, table no A2.04. May 1996. DSS.
(9) Income related benefits - estimates of take up in1995/96. DSS.
(10) Family spending: a report on the 1996/97 Family Expenditure Survey (FES), table no 2.1.
(11) Ibid, table no 4.2.
(13) General Household Survey (GHS) 1996, table no 2.13.
(14) Ibid, table no 12.2(1,).
(15) FES, op cit, table no 9.4 and 9.5.
(16) Informal Carers, 1995 General Household Survey, table no 15.
(17) Ibid, table no 24.
(18) GHS, 1996, table no 8.1.
(19) House of Commons Hansard, 30/10/95, col 45Wand PT. op Cit.
(20) House of Commons Hansard, 4/11/97 col 103W
(21) Excess winter mortality: international comparisons 1976-84by M. Henwood, Family Policy Studies Centre 1991.
(22) Home Accident Surveillance System: report on accident data and safety research, table no HASS 4.
(23) Road Accidents (GB) 1997. Dept. of Environment, Transport and Regions.
(24) GHS, 1996, taNe no 8.28 and 8.34.
(25) Ibid, table nos 8.21 and 8.22.
(26) Community care statistics 1997, published in Department of Health Statistical Bulletin 1998.
(27) GHS, 1996, table no 3.11(b).
(28) English House Condition Survey 1996.
(29) Department of Environment, Transport and Regions, unpublished statistics.
(30) Elderly Accommodation Counsel database.
(31) Annual Review for Abbeyfield Society 1997.
(32) Community Care Statistics 1997, table no Dept. of Health.
(33) Private Hospitals, homes and clinics 1997, published in Department of Health Statistical Bulletin 1998.
(34) Care of elderly people: market survey 1997, Laing and Buisson.